Breast Milk Supply

Many factors work together to determine breast milk supply. Prolactin is the main milk-producing hormone. Oxytocin causes the milk to “let down”.


My grandmother told me she didn't produce enough milk to breastfeed any of her 3 daughters. My mother didn't produce enough to breastfeed me. Does this mean I will have a problem producing milk?

Dr. Greene's Answer

Milk supply is a concern of many mothers. You will likely be able to produce plenty of milk. Still, your mother’s and grandmother’s experience makes it even more likely that you would benefit from working with a lactation consultant when your baby is born (something I encourage for all first time moms).

Many factors work together to determine milk supply. Prolactin is the main milk-producing hormone. Oxytocin is the hormone that causes the milk to “let down” so the baby can get it. At the beginning, a mother’s body does not know how much milk it needs to produce. A supply-and-demand dance with the baby helps to set the production levels.

The more often and more effectively a baby nurses, the higher mom’s prolactin levels, and the more milk is produced. Frequent, short nursing stimulates milk production more than longer nursing less frequently. Getting plenty of fluids is also important for mom’s to make plenty of milk.

Many women are told that they are not making enough milk, even when the baby is getting plenty to grow and thrive:

  • If the mother is not able to express much milk
  • If she doesn’t feel a let-down reflex
  • If she doesn’t leak much
  • If the baby seems hungry in only an hour
  • If the baby starts spending less time at the breast
  • If the baby still enjoys a bottle after nursing

Most of the time, these are false alarms.

There are several better ways to tell that a baby is getting enough milk:

  • The baby is making plenty of wet diapers for his age
  • He is making plenty of poop for his age
  • He is growing as expected.
  • He usually seem satisfied or sleepy immediately after nursing.

Whatever happened with your mother and grandmother, there is a good chance that you will be able to produce enough milk for your baby with expert support and advice from a good lactation consultant.

Last medical review on: July 02, 2016
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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Recent Comments

I would like to add this to every breastfeeding post about producing enough milk. I have 4 children. Have nurses them all. Am currently nursing an 11 month old. It seems to me that every article I read about having enough milk never states the obvious. Water water and water. Nursing mother needs to drink large glass of water every time she nurses !!